Therefore let’s look at a super early top-15 NHL mock draft. I’ll probably end up doing three of these in total. This one, another before the NHL Scouting Combine, and one more just before the actual draft.
After the top two this draft can go a lot of ways. It’ll be exciting to see how it all unfolds on the stage in Vancouver.
1. New Jersey Devils – Jack Hughes (C)| U18 USDP
The Devils will pick at the top of the NHL Draft for the second time in three years. Again, they’ll walk away with a high-end center prospect. Adding Hughes to the mix with Nico Hischier and Taylor Hall is the beginning of a nice young core group for the Devils.
2. New York Rangers – Kaapo Kakko (RW) | TPS – Liiga
The Rangers go from fifth to second overall and will draft a heck of a consolation prize. Kakko broke scoring records in Liiga for a player of his age that were set by Aleksander Barkov. The Rangers have like 100 draft picks and Kakko is a great piece to continue their rebuild.
3. Chicago Blackhawks – Bowen Byram (LD) | Vancouver Giants – WHL
Byram is by far the best defenseman in this draft. Not only is he solid defensively, but he’s a dynamic offensive player. Byram will be another piece to a real nice blue line the Blackhawks are building with Henri Jokiharju and Adam Boqvist their last two first-round picks.
4. Colorado Avalanche (via Ottawa Senators) – Alex Turcotte (C) | U18 USDP
The Avalanche seem to take the player I like all the time. It was Cale Makar back in 2016 and this year it’ll be Alex Turcotte. The dynamic two-way center is climbing into unquestioned top-five pick territory. He was recently added to Team USA for the U18 World Championship that will begin tomorrow. He’ll have a chance to solidify his top-five status at that tournament.
5. Los Angeles Kings – Vasili Podkolzin (RW) – 1946 St. Petersburg – MHL
The Russian winger is an interesting player in this draft. He had a strong World Junior, but hasn’t put up good numbers offensively in Russia. He has a ton of talent to be a top-three pick, but when you mix in his potential contract concerns with the KHL, he may slip a few spots.
6. Detroit Red Wings - Dylan Cozens (C) | Lethbridge Hurricanes – WHL
This around the time in the draft where it can get a little crazy. After the top-five, the players that will be picked from six to 15 can be a mixed bag depending on team preference. I have the Red Wings going back to Canadian junior ranks again a grabbing dynamic center Cozens.
7. Buffalo Sabres – Trevor Zegras (C/W) | U18 USDP
The Sabres will be looking at a few good options at seven overall to help their forward ranks. I was deciding between three players for this spot in Trevor Zegras, Kirby Dach, and Cole Caufield. I eliminated Dach purely on the fact that Jason Botterill hasn’t picked a Canadian junior player in two years.
Caufield is climbing draft boards and just scores goals. He may climb into this spot eventually with a strong U18’s, but for now I went with Zegras in this spot. The speedy forward is a good two-way player, tough to play against, and has great vision on the ice.
#NTDP: Here is an example of how resilient these NTDP kids are. C Trevor Zegras (Ranked No. 4) gets hammered into the boards. Instead of looking for a call or feeling sorry for himself, he bounces back up and scores a highlight-reel goal. pic.twitter.com/gm8wx1jdxh— Steve Kournianos (@TheDraftAnalyst) March 23, 2019
8. Edmonton Oilers – Kirby Dach (C) – Saskatoon Blades – WHL
After selecting Evan Bouchard last season and with a disappointing first pro season from Kailer Yamamoto, I have the Oilers going with Dach. The big center has a nice combination of speed and skill. Could be a nice second-line center behind Connor McDavid in a few years.
9. Anaheim Ducks – Cole Caufield (C/W) | U18 USDP
While I had the Sabres passing on Caufield, I believe he’s still going to be a top-10 pick. Some will have some concern with his size, but players like Alex DeBrincat and Johnny Gaudreau have shown us dynamic scorers can overcome that in the NHL.
Second hat trick in four games.— USHL (@USHL) January 28, 2018
18 goals in 19 games.
Cole Caufield, you are ridiculous. pic.twitter.com/MYybMT4WxY
10. Vancouver Canucks – Peyton Krebs (C/W) | Kootenay Ice – WHL
The last of the four WHL players that will likely go in the top-10 goes to the Canucks. Krebs is another dynamic offensive player. His combination of speed, skill, and hockey IQ could make him a real nice grab at 10.
11. Philadelphia Flyers – Matthew Boldy (RW) | U18 USDP
Boldy just feels like a Flyers winger. Big kid that is hard to play against and score a ton from the left-wing. If you lost count he’s the fifth US National Development program player to go in the top-15 and he’s not going to be the last.
12. Minnesota Wild – Victor Soderstrom (RD) | Brynas J20 – Superelit
Time for a small run on some defenders. First up is Swedish defenseman Soderstrom. The smooth-skating blueliner has a great hockey IQ that makes him dangerous offensively and reliable defensively.
13. Florida Panthers – Cam York (LD) | U18 USDP
York marks the sixth USDP prospect to go in the top-15. The U18’s will be a big measuring stick for the left-shot defender. He’s currently ranked anywhere from 12 to 17 and a strong tournament should solidify him in the top-15.
14. Arizona Coyotes – Arthur Kaliyev (LW) | Hamilton Bulldogs – OHL
Talk about a player that just scores. Kaliyev scored 51 goals and 102 points for the Bulldogs this season in the OHL. If it wasn’t for some concerns with his skating and two-way game, he could be in the discussion as a top-10, if not top-five pick.
15. Montreal Canadiens – Alex Newhook (C) | Victoria Grizzlies – BCHL
Newhook is another player that scored 102 points this season. He’ll be an interesting player to watch as well for Canada in the upcoming U18’s. Playing in the BCHL could have some question if that production translates to better Canadian junior leagues. It also makes it even more important for Newhook to do well in the tournament this week for scouts to see him do well against his peers on an international stage. For reference Tyson Jost scored 104 points in his draft year in the BCHL.
The U18 World Championship begins tomorrow and will be a nice final evaluation for a lot of draft eligible prospects. If you like fast and exciting hockey I’m sure there’s a link somewhere on the internet that will have a feed to the games.